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Andrew Jones: how to make no-sweat sweets

PUBLISHED: 12:44 29 October 2018 | UPDATED: 12:44 29 October 2018

Creating delightful desserts might not be as hard as you think... (photo: Simon Finlay)

Creating delightful desserts might not be as hard as you think... (photo: Simon Finlay)

Copyright Simon Finlay 2018

This month Andrew Jones shares some chef’s secrets for dreamy desserts

Never trust a dinner guest who doesn’t want dessert. It’s the most popular part of the meal for most, but when it comes to making puds at home it can sometimes seem like a step too far in terms of your own time. So I’ve a few ideas on how to whip up a sweet without the sweat...

1. Most important of all – I always have a fresh vanilla pod in the house, the flavour it gives to any dessert recipe is unmistakeable. I like to make my own vanilla essence by cooking a pod with 100g of sugar and 100g of water per pod. Just blitz everything together when the pod has plumped up. The flavour is way more powerful than shop-bought essence; just add a dash to your desserts for an instant wow factor. It will keep in the fridge for ages.

2. First class custard, the hack’s way... Equal quantities of cream and milk (half pint each), 100g sugar and then substitute half the suggested amount of custard powder with four egg yolks and ideally a dash of your homemade vanilla syrup. Making it this way gives you another level of custard which basically jazzes up anything you serve it with.

3. Guess what – crème Anglaise is just cold custard! Swap out the custard power and double the egg yolks. You can also fold it through with an equal quantity of stiffly-whipped cream for a spoon-able, vanilla-ry custard cream. Serve either with a zesty lemon tart or with fruit.

4. I always bake with salted butter to add depth to the flavour – there’s just enough salt in the butter to bring out the flavour of your pastry or cake to make it taste really rich and decadent. Also I like to add a pinch of Maldon salt to anything with chocolate or cocoa. You’ve heard of salted caramel? Salted chocolate is next level.

5. If you’re cooking with the kids and they’re keen to get stuck into breaking the eggs (shells and all) into the bowl, or you’re just a bit of a shell dropper yourself then use a cup to break them into and just sieve the egg.

6. Bread and butter anything – If you’ve got croissants, fruit bread or regular bread pop it in an oven-proof dish with some raisins (cinnamon if you’re feeling fancy) and custard and put it in the oven with a sprinkling of sugar. If you really want to push the boat out make it with marmalade sandwiches, or chocolate spread, peanut-butter...

Cracking crumble

Arguably the most popular dessert in our household is the fruit crumble. If you’re organised in advance it’s relatively simple anyway but there’s an even quicker way to success if you’re caught off guard (or you just forgot).

My simple crumble topping stores well in the fridge or freezer – use it to sprinkle over stewed fruits or ice cream for an anytime dessert. I like to use oats to add texture – you can also add chopped nuts.

Just pulse equal quantities of butter (salted), demerara sugar, plain flour and oats together to a coarse crumb. Bake in a moderate (160C) oven for 20-25 mins on a flat tray, stirring occasionally to even out the colour. When it’s a deep golden colour and smells like biscuits it’s ready. Store in an airtight container in the fridge and use on top of stewed fruit, maybe with a dollop of custard cream.

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Dial H for Hacks

By Andrew Jones, executive chef and joint owner of The Dial House, Reepham and Farmyard, Norwich

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